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Saturday 23 September 2017

Fugitive on run over $75m fraud caught by gardai

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Man found peddling drugs in Dublin's city centre after he and accomplice fleeced mortgage lenders

THREE years after going on the run from a $75m (€58m) mortgage fraud in the US, Scott Cavell will be delivered into the waiting arms of the FBI this week.

The son of a former US soldier is to be deported back to his home county of Sacramento after gardai caught up with him living under a false name peddling drugs in Dublin.

In the Dublin District Court last Monday, Cavell, 29, got a five-year suspended sentence, on condition that he co-operates with his deportation back to America. How he came to feature on the Garda's radar in the first place is a crime caper in itself. Cavell and his accomplice, Christopher J Warren, were two young bucks in their mid-20s who managed a finance company in Sacramento, California.

According to US court documents, they defrauded investors and mortgage companies of millions since 2006, involving 500 homes and condominiums across several US states. At the time, a US attorney said "the brazenness and the cynical manipulation of people who were investing hard-earned money. . . is beyond the pale".

On February 2, 2009, months after the fraud was uncovered, Warren and Cavell vanished. Warren chartered a private plane for $156,000, and flew to the Lebanon via a stopover in Shannon Airport. During the flight, he opened a suitcase to show flight crew up to $5m worth of gold, although the authorities never found it. He was arrested a week later, trying to get back into the US at the Canadian border, where he was caught with a fake passport, $70,000 cash stuffed in his boots and €6,000 worth of platinum.

Cavell -- described in court documents as Warren's "right-hand man" -- performed a more successful vanishing act. Whether he hitched a lift on Warren's private jet isn't clear, but either way he turned up in Ireland on a false US passport, where for the next few years he lived in rented flats selling gold coins and precious metals over the internet to reputable traders and dealers.

Cavell managed to live below the radar, having somehow swapped his false US passport for a bogus Irish one under the name of Marcus Dwyer. He opened two bank accounts with Allied Irish Bank on Dame Street, through which flowed tens of thousands of euro, and lived in a comfortable apartment on Castle Street in Dublin city centre.

According to investigating gardai, Cavell's gold ran out and he turned to drug dealing to get by. He started growing cannabis in his Castle Street apartment. Word of it reached drug squad detectives, who turned up there in February last year with a search warrant.

Cavell -- or Dwyer as he called himself -- wasn't home. But in a classic piece of bad timing, he showed up just as the detectives were in mid-search. Cavell confessed but he still passed himself off as Marcus Dwyer, producing his bogus Irish passport.

Even though he was a fugitive from an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol, Cavell was processed through the courts for a drugs offence under his false name of Dwyer.

The authorities also confiscated his false passport as a condition of bail, so that he couldn't take flight.

The first the gardai knew of Marcus Dwyer's alter ego came in October, on the eve of his trial for drugs charges. Garda Paul Kelly, curious about his American accent, sent his fingerprints and photograph to Interpol. Interpol wired back that this man was a wanted fugitive, Scott Cavell.

At his trial gardai objected to bail citing the Interpol dispatch, but the judge allowed it. Cavell went on the run again, prompting the court to issue a bench warrant for his arrest.

By now the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations had joined the hunt for Cavell, who continued his drug peddling even though he was already before the courts.

He was arrested at the Electric Picnic in September last year -- in possession of 28 ecstasy tablets -- where he again used the name Marcus Dwyer. He was released without charge, gardai intending to summons him later.

Gardai followed the money trail. His bank cards had been seized during one of his two arrests.

Detectives traced back his last transactions conducted in his bogus name of Dwyer. He continued to use the cards up to October 2011, although there was little left in his bank accounts.

Detectives eventually tracked him to a modest rented house on Tyrconnell Road in March this year.

There they found Cavell lying low, taking calls on his phone from Sacramento and frequently ordering in Chinese takeaways.

They staked him out before following him to Ben Dunne's gym on Jervis Street one morning in March, rudely interrupting his workout. Back at his rented house, they found a tablet press and enough ecstasy to make €20,000 worth of tablets, and €3,500 in cash. He later told gardai that he bought the press to make steroids. At his trial last week, Detective Garda Philip Ryan told the court that Cavell had fallen in with the "wrong crowd". He was "encouraged" to come to Ireland on a false passport and then steered into the drugs operation when he got here.

Cavell was ordered to remain in jail until the gardai organised his deportation.

Cavell's accomplice, Warren, was jailed for 14 years last month for the mortgage fraud. Cavell is likely to face a similar sentence but, according to his lawyer, he still wants to go back to the US as quickly as possible. He has had enough of being a fugitive.

Sunday Independent

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